updated 11:20 pm EST, Fri January 13, 2012
We try Samsung Chrome OS, 5 Ultra, 9 series at CES
Samsung had one of its most sweeping notebook updates yet at CES this week and introduced multiple major updates to its notebook line. We had the opportunity to try them all at CES and came away with mixed reactions. Read on for early impressions, including whether or not the Series 9 will give Apple heat in the ultrabook category.
The new 9 series has Apple beaten in a pair of important metrics: weight and thickness. Even with the usual tie-downs at a trade show, it still felt very light and was unambiguously thinner than the MacBook Air. Its metal finish, one-piece multi-touch trackpad, and overall look are clearly taking some Apple cues, but unlike some ultrabook designers, Samsung clearly aimed to do better.
We liked the keyboard and generally liked the trackpad, although we'd still take the Air's extra multi-touch gestures. Performance is about on par, as it's using a 1.7GHz Core i7, but that with the solid-state drive makes it very responsive. Samsung has at least made it clear it's intending to stay competitive in the ultrabook space regarding design, even if the $1,500 minimum price may keep many people away.
What may be more intriguing on that front is the 5 Ultra line. Its construction clearly isn't as high end, and we weren't as much fans of the trackpad. However, the design at under 0.7 inches deep (on the 13-inch model, 0.8 on the 14-inch) is still thin for a system that has a full 500GB hard drive, and at 3.1 pounds it still felt light. Although we didn't have the luxury of trying it, Samsung is also promising a 20-second boot time even with the spinning hard drive. As much as Apple has some design advantages, it's not participating in this in-between notebook space, and that might be the 5 Ultra's real opening.
Samsung also had a pair of surprises in including both a revamped Series 5 Chromebook and a more official version of its Chromebox desktop. To be honest, they feel more like makeovers than real changes. Samsung said it had jumped from a dual-core Atom to a Celeron on the Series 5 and has a new semi-metallic shell, but it and the Chromebox don't feel like fundamental breaks other than in aesthetics. The performance is about the same, and there are still issues with offline use. Samsung also didn't give much of an indication of release plans for either the Chromebook or the Chromebox.
Series 5 Ultra
Series 5 Chromebook and Chromebox